Finishing

March 14th, 2012

I finish things that I start. Always have. It’s not at all a principle thing. I just don’t know any other way.

Sometimes, in the interest of keeping the focus on one thing, this has meant putting off things like chores, or other projects, or having a social life… Or a career…

Anyway the point is, I like to finish things.

At this time, for probably a whole whack of reasons that I’m not going get long-winded about right now, I  happen to have a lot of little yet time consuming projects going on simultaneously. And I want to finish some of them. I want conclusions. Not because I’m having trouble multi-focusing - I’m actually quite adept at that; it comes from a lifetime of driving with my knees while eating take out and changing the cassette in the tape deck*. No, I’m looking to smack a period on some things right now because there’s more I’d like to do.

*You heard me.

I don’t usually have so many lengthy projects on the go at once. It’s not even a boredom thing; I just want to see some of these things tied off.

So yeah. Apparently, I just blog my inane thoughts now with no redeeming lesson whatsoever.

Balls

March 9th, 2012

There are two kinds of currency in the entertainment business. Credit and, well, currency. You can have all the talent and a bucket load more but sadly, it will mean nothing to the business end of the business without either of these.

This is because people with money for investing in something as precarious as the film business tend to not want to make such an investment without the (perception) of security. As such, it seems very rare that any effort is ever made to move forward with something as unbolstered as an unrepresented spec script. The most lowly respected yet fundamental of all entertainment commodities.

Lowly respected, that is, to people with no balls. And that’s because, it takes balls to pick up a simple story - with no celebrity attachments, no development financing, no endorsements of any kind, and see its potential. The balls to be unencumbered by the concerns of others. The confidence in one’s own achievements to trust one’s gut. The balls to be a champion for the script and trust that sometimes greatness is found where you least expect it. The self-assurance in saying yes to something rather than passing on it out of fear of damaging the status quo of one’s own career. The balls to be able to boldly seek out material rather than dwell in complacent wait of the recommendations of others or to follow the whims of the herd.

Balls aren’t a measure of how much risk someone’s willing to take, their a measure of how confident they are in themselves.

I love balls.

Buy A Ticket

February 27th, 2012

So the big award show happened last night. And no, I’m not going to take the all too easy pot shots. Every year everybody chimes in about how much they hate the Oscars yet every year, there we are, back for more.

What’s being said about the Academy Awards north of the border is… Very little. And if it weren’t for Christopher Plummer that chitchat would probably drop to zero. I am, of course, only referring to the chitchat coming from the mouths of Canadian filmmakers about Canadian film. The Canadian masses were pleased as punch, I’m sure, to revel in the glimmer of the American glitterati. And why shouldn’t they? Without American film we wouldn’t even need to build cinemas up here.

I think most Canadian filmmakers blame the public for this. I may have been guilty of this too, once upon a time: Why can’t you all just support your homegrown films? Why does our talent have to go south of the border to make a name for itself before anybody will give them the time of day here at home?

Maybe - and I’m just spitballing here - maybe, it’s because we don’t have anything to offer?

WhaaaAAAT?

I’m not saying the talent isn’t here. It is. Until it’s not; because it’s gone south. So why can’t we take that talent and turn it into films everyday Canadians want to watch? Could it be that, as filmmakers, we have a bit of a skewed way of thinking about an audience’s relationship to the medium? Allow me to illustrate my point:

I recently received a mass email from a Canadian producer promoting their latest film. Nothing wrong with that. Get the word out there. Sure. Except– At the end of the very enthusiastic letter about how happy we are with the movie yadda yadda, comes the line: “Please buy a ticket, even if you don’t go to see the movie. It would really help me out.”

It’s important to understand that the producer wasn’t literally panhandling for change here - though that’s not unheard of up here. What they were after was a theatrical run. See, getting your movie into a theater for anything longer than a weekend is the mother of all Canadian film achievements. It also means you acquire bona fide producer credits as determined by our nation’s film financing agency. Producer credits mean you’ve arrived. You can just sit there and massage the federal teat for as long as it takes to squirt.

What’s more is, I was told by this producer in person, a month earlier, that the movie in question was terrible. Yes, he said this about his own movie.

Going to our movies - or worse, buying a ticket to a movie we’re not going to watch - shouldn’t be a favour we ask of the public. It’s embarrassing. For everybody. Including, and perhaps foremost, the financiers of these make-work projects. The public has to want - desperately - to see what we’ve created. Before you laugh, think about the Star Wars geeks standing in line to see The Phantom Menace for the first time with their Darth Maul tattoos already inked on their chests. That was just a movie too. Just like what we can do here.

I don’t despair however. Ever slowly things do change. Risks do get taken and are rewarded. That’s Canadian “risk” by the way - not real risk. But it’s certainly not the fault of the public. They - we - just want to be entertained. Don’t ask us to do stuff. Or to care about your career. Just make something good for us to watch. Then maybe, just maybe, someone will give a shit when the Genies roll around.

They’re March 8th, incidentally.

I had to look it up.

Dotting The Ts & Crossing My Eyes

February 12th, 2012

Work work work work and then… Nothing.

I’ve just spent several weeks and, yes, months preparing various projects for what can be summarized simply as pitches. And suddenly I find myself at the end of this process and entering a new stage of “development”: Waiting.

I’m not a big fan of waiting. Never have been. It’s a mortality thing, I suppose. I’d rather do than wait to do. There’s a stereotype about writers; that they’re lazy or procrastinators. By this prejudice I am most certainly not a writer. Perhaps I’m only one by default of the creative process. But I digress.

I’ve never been a big proponent of pitching. Probably because of that waiting element. After all, what’s pitching if not doing something other than actually creating. Unless it’s a means to that creative end. A part of the process. And it is. For some projects. Not necessarily a super fun part, but still a necessary part in order to achieve a certain level of satisfaction. Once again, this all comes back to mortality. Shoe-string art projects and boiling the broom for soup for years and years sounds really great and all, but I’ve got a few more ideas than that. Ideas on a larger scale.

Whether it’s applying to arts funding agencies, pitching to production companies or (just shoot me now) distribution companies there’s something to be said for mortality. I’m eventually going to be dead and I don’t want my legacy to be a bunch of movies I didn’t get made but that look absolutely stellar on paper. Likewise, I could go out and shoot and shoot or animate and animate the hell out of no-budget darlings but to what end? I’ve done that. I know how long that takes and I know what the outcome is. Mortality dictates that I take things to the next level.

So I’ve been dotting the Ts and crossing my eyes over what I know are great stories and turning them into great pitches. And I’ll keeping making those pitches. And while those doing the catching deliberate, I’ll keep right on creating new things.

I am a filmmaker after all, not a filmdreamer.

The Success of Others

January 31st, 2012

My mom sends me links to news articles. So does yours - c’mon. She used to clip out newspaper articles and leave them on the kitchen table for me. But she’s tech savvy now. Anyway, the latest tidbit of entertainment information that Mom deemed worthy of my attention was about a successful writer who’s living the Canadian writer’s dream; working in the US.

I kindly replied to her email that it’s always nice to read about the success of others.

Mom immediately took the tone of my email to be sarcastic. That my reply was me lashing out with cantankerous envy. And I can see how that’s a reaction that may arise. But it wasn’t, on my part. I thought it was genuinely great to hear about the success of others who share your pursuit.

There’s so much rejection; so much unrelenting defeat in this industry that hearing that someone else has actually hit the target for which they were aiming is - if nothing else - a comforting reminder. A reminder that what you’re after is not impossible. It’s also a nice reminder to take a look at your own accomplishments and remember that for every one of you there are a dozen more yous out there who are reading your story and thinking the same thing. That if a cantankerous jerk so sarcastic that even his mother assumes the worst can do this, so can they.